Jump to content

Jefferson Memorial Forest

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jefferson Memorial Forest
Map showing the location of Jefferson Memorial Forest
Map showing the location of Jefferson Memorial Forest
Location in Kentucky
LocationJefferson County, Kentucky, Knobs region, United States
Coordinates38°03′51″N 85°48′23″W / 38.06420°N 85.80640°W / 38.06420; -85.80640
Area6,676 acres (27.02 km2)
EstablishedOctober 10, 1948; 75 years ago (1948-10-10)
Governing bodyLouisville Metro Government

The Jefferson Memorial Forest is a forest located in southwest Louisville, Kentucky, in the Knobs region of Kentucky. At 6,676 acres (27.02 km2), it is one of the largest municipal urban forests in the United States.[1][2]

The forest was established as a tribute to area war dead but ultimately this was extended to all U.S. veterans. It is operated as a city park by Louisville Metro Government.[3]

In 1975, the forest was designated a National Audubon Society Wildlife Refuge.


On the Tulip Tree Trail

The forest offers nearly 60 miles (97 km) of hiking and equestrian trails,[4] including several which offer views of downtown Louisville.[citation needed] Several discrete usage areas are featured, including the Tom Wallace Recreation Area, with the 7-acre (28,000 m2) Tom Wallace Lake; the Paul Yost Recreation Area, and the Horine Conference Center. Camping and fishing are both permitted. Tom Wallace Lake is stocked with trout and catfish twice a year. Tom Wallace Recreation Area features various handicapped-accessible facilities, including a fishing dock and a 1,560-foot (480 m)-long natural trail, the Tulip Tree Trail. The Horine Conference Center is a popular field trip destination for Louisville schools.[4][additional citation(s) needed]

A hiking trail, the Siltstone Trail, traverses much of the forest from east to west. There are several local hiking trails, in addition. Horine also features many hiking trails and both the Paul Yost and Tom Wallace Recreation Areas have horse trails.[4] No mountain biking is permitted in the forest at this time, but the low traffic roads and hilly terrain afford road cyclists many challenging routes through the forest and surrounding areas.[citation needed]


Tom Wallace Lake

Beginning in August 1945, Jefferson County, Kentucky, undertook to establish a forest preserve in the southwestern part of the county. Dedicated October 10, 1948, the Jefferson County Memorial Forest was named as a memorial to the area's World War II dead. Since then, the forest has been redesignated to remember all who served in the armed forces.[5]

The original land purchases were guided by Paul Yost, who was appointed as the county forester. 1,300 acres (5.3 km2) were secured by the time of dedication, and through 1954, an additional 400 acres (1.6 km2) were acquired. The next significant acquisitions occurred from 1979 through the end of the 1980s, when the forest expanded to 5,000 acres (20 km2). During this period, due to the efforts of Mitch McConnell, then the Jefferson County Judge/Executive (1977–1984) and currently U.S. Senate Minority Leader, the forest doubled in size. Since the 1980s, acquisition has proceeded slowly.[2][5][6]

On October 4, 1975, Elvis Stahr, president of the National Audubon Society, officially declared the forest a National Audubon Wildlife Refuge. At the time, then-Louisville mayor Harvey I. Sloane contrasted the serenity of the forest with the bustle of the nearby city and continued: "This is a tremendous asset for the city and county ... and the cooperation here of federal government, the society and local government is unique."[7]

In 1994, the Mitchell Hill School, a former country schoolhouse built in 1915, was renovated as a visitor and welcome center.[5]

On May 28, 1996, thousand of forest trees were downed by a tornado, which caused several trails to be temporarily closed. The damage was compared to what occurred in Cherokee Park during the 1974 Super Outbreak.[8]

Natural history[edit]

The forest is home to numerous wild plants and animals.
Bee Lick Creek

There are some fifty types of trees, including ten species of oaks, and a rich flora of wildflowers and seventeen species of ferns and fern allies. A wide variety of animals can be seen, including bobcats, coyotes, red foxes, white-tailed deer, great blue herons and horned owls.

Like many other natural areas in the eastern United States, the forest has a significant problem with invasive exotics, including tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), autumn olive (Eleagnus umbellata), Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), and princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa).

The forest is located in the Knobs region of Kentucky, also known as the Muldraugh Escarpment. This is a belt of rugged hills lying between the Bluegrass and the Pennyrile regions. The underlying geology of these hills is primarily siltstone and shale, with the siltstone creating extremely steep hillsides. The most important of these in the forest area is the Holtzclaw Siltstone, named after Holsclaw Hill.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "New Property Connects Sections of Jefferson Memorial Forest". LouisvilleKy.gov. November 17, 2009. Archived from the original on June 30, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2024.
  2. ^ a b "Jefferson Memorial Forest – Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet". eec.ky.gov. Archived from the original on September 26, 2023. Retrieved May 9, 2024.
  3. ^ "Jefferson Memorial Forest". LouisvilleKY.gov. Archived from the original on October 2, 2023. Retrieved May 9, 2024.
  4. ^ a b c "Visit Jefferson Memorial Forest". Wilderness Louisville. May 24, 2021. Archived from the original on March 14, 2022. Retrieved May 9, 2024.
  5. ^ a b c Armstrong, David L. (2001). "Jefferson County Memorial Forest". In Kleber, John E. (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Louisville. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 440–441. ISBN 0-8131-2100-0. OCLC 247857447. Archived from the original on March 13, 2023. Retrieved May 9, 2024.
  6. ^ Shafer, Sheldon (November 4, 1984). "The U.S. Senate race in Kentucky, The Candidates, Mitch McConnell". The Courier-Journal. p. D4. Archived from the original on May 10, 2024. Retrieved May 9, 2024.
  7. ^ Aubespin, Mervin (October 5, 1975). "County forest named wildlife refuge". The Courier-Journal. p. A19. Archived from the original on May 10, 2024. Retrieved May 9, 2024.
  8. ^ Shafer, Sheldon (June 4, 1996). "Forest lost thousands of big trees to tornado". The Courier-Journal. p. 1. Archived from the original on May 10, 2024. Retrieved May 9, 2024.

External links[edit]